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No mere error of judgement

Raulston
Nembhard

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

IN the wake of a video showing him participating in an entertainment event during one of the lockdown days, Floyd Green, Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth South Western and now minister of agriculture, was forced to resign from the Cabinet.

This has come as a shock and a disappointment to many in the nation as Green is one of the very promising young politicians who many believe has a positive contribution to make to his country and a promising future in politics.

Judging from public sentiment, many are agreed that we are looking at his back, temporarily, as he hits the exit button. Like the redoubtable P J Patterson, who resigned from the Michael Manley Cabinet in the wake of the Shell waiver scandal and returned to active politics to later became the nation's longest-serving prime minister, Floyd, too, shall return. I have no doubt that he will and trust that he would have learnt well the lessons from this demeaning episode in his life.

His affable and readily accessible style has endeared him to many. It is safe to say that, up to the point of his departure, he was enjoying a good stint at the Ministry of Agriculture. He brought a sense of innovation, energy, and common sense to the job. He was pursuing certain initiatives that were starting to bear fruit, especially in the area of getting young people engaged in agriculture.

He understood the importance of agriculture to national food security, and also wanted the sector to become an integral aspect of job security for those who wished to be engaged in it. He was fast becoming an inspiration to young people, some of whom have started to see agriculture as an area from which they could earn a good livelihood.

All of this has now been cauterised by what he described in his resignation letter as an error of judgement for a matter about which he was wrong.

I have been pondering this error of judgement declaration. It has become fashionable for people who have done grievous wrongs to simply excuse their behaviour as an error of judgement. Green did well in getting ahead of his wrongdoing by apologising to his family, the prime minister, and the nation for what happened. All of this is commendable. There was not the usual prevarication or inability to admit wrong that is so ingrained in our culture. But there is something bothersome about excusing what appeared to be a calculated, premeditated, and joyfully executed act as a mere error of judgement.

Although we welcome his forthright and quick response, his premeditated decision to participate in an event that would rubbish his Government's efforts to contain an existential threat to the nation was no mere trip or fall.

A lot of thought and planning must have gone into the staging of this event. Green must have known that the event — still to be substantiated, though not denied — would be held on a lockdown day as part of measures by his own Government — of which he was an important operative — to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. He is a bright man, and a lawyer to boot. His decision to attend was seemingly not an impromptu one. He had time to think about it and seek advice from friends and colleagues about the implications of attending.

Having watched Green operate in the public space, it seems to me that he should have known better than to pass off this egregious behaviour as a mere error of judgement on his part. I do not believe his judgement is this flawed. Fact is, he knows better. In a sense, he does himself a disservice by characterising his behaviour, in this instance, as such.

It was a fundamentally flawed decision, which, some would say, displayed a reckless disregard for a disease that has killed close to 2,000 Jamaicans and maimed perhaps hundreds more. It is to treat with thrift the hard work of the Government and people of Jamaica, especially the hard-working first responders, who have fought tirelessly against COVID-19. His actions have poured scorn on the collective decision of the Cabinet.

Especially in public life, we must set aside the tendency to excuse grievous behaviour as mere errors of judgement. This is a fig leaf that is used too often to excuse failure. Others will assess your own judgement in a particular matter, but it should not become a convenient escape hatch, especially when grave danger can emanate from it.

Finally, putting back the Ministry of Agriculture with that of the already-humongous Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce is a non-starter and not a prudential move by the Andrew Holness-led Administration. I agree with those who believe that agriculture should stand on its own. We have gone the twinning route before and it did not work out well. This is not a commentary on Audley Shaw's leadership, but on the synergies and logistics of placing such an important sector with an already large and burdensome ministry. Prime Minister Holness should rethink this one.

Nurse Edith Allwood-Anderson

A giant of the nursing profession in Jamaica has fallen. Nurse Edith Allwood-Anderson, my fellow classmate, debater, and quiz enthusiast at our alma mater St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS), was a former president of the Nurses Association of Jamaica. Without doubt, she was one of the most prominent and hard-working people to have sat in that seat.

From our days at STETHS she showed the grit and determination which she would later display in her advocacy for the cause of the nurses. She had an indefatigable spirit, and took no as an answer only when she was convinced that this was the right answer. Having seen her in action as a member of the school's debating team, I was not surprised at how she presented herself in her career — a stout defender of the nurses she served with, served, and loved.

She has gone on to a well-deserved rest, having succumbed to sickness, which can strike anyone at any time. The nurses will miss a stalwart in their midst, for even though the obvious physical deterioration caused by her ailments, especially the loss of her sight, had set in, she continued as best she could to be near their causes — helping, urging, cajoling, and lending the vast experience she had garnered over the years to their struggle. She will be sorely missed. May her soul rest in the peace she craved and God's perpetual light shine one her.

 

Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the books Finding Peace in the Midst of Life's Storm and Your Self-esteem Guide to a Better Life. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or stead6655@aol.com.